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by Mandy Barrow

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British life and culture - England, Scotland and Wales
Chelsea Pensioners

Chelsea Pensioners

Who are "The Men in Scarlet" uniforms?

Wandering around London you may come across elderly men in distinctive scarlet uniform. They are known as the Chelsea Pensioners and they are are carying on 300 years of tradition.

Chelsea Pensioner

They live in the Royal Hospital Chelsea, in West London

Who are the Chelsea Pensioners?

The term 'Chelsea Pensioner' is used to refer to both ‘In-' and ‘Out-Pensioners' who are former British soldiers. An ‘In-Pensioner' lives in the Royal Hospital Chelsea. An 'Out-Pensioner' lives away from the hospital.

The Chelsea Pensioner Uniform

The Chelsea Pensioners have two uniforms – their "undress" (navy blue), and the better-known red coats and tricorne hats.

Chelsea Pensioners wear a three quarter length scarlet frock coat with Royal blue facings to the cuffs and collar. They also wear navy trousers with a scarlet stripe and tricorn pattern cap.


The three-cornered (tricorne) hat
worn on official occasions.
Every day hat

When is the best time to see Chelsea Pensioners?

If you are lucky, you will see Chelsea Pensioners walking around London, otherwise the best times to see the Penshioners in full scarlet uniform is on:

  • 29 May - Oak Apple Day
    The Chelsea Pensioners honour of the birthday of the Hospital's founder, King Charles II, with a parade. The King's statue is adorned with oak leaves to commemorate his escape after the Battle of Worcester in 1651, when the claimant to the throne hid in the Boscobel Oak.
  • RHS Chelsea Flower Show
  • The Ceremony of the Christmas Cheeses, celebrated since 1692.
    Every December, the dairy industry honour the bravery and heroism of our war veterans when cheesemakers from all over Great Britain present British cheeses to the pensioners. The tradition itself dates back to 1692 when the hospital asked a local cheesemonger to provide the pensioners with cheese as a Christmas treat.

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© Copyright Mandy Barrow 2014

Mandy is the creator of the Woodlands Resources section of the Woodlands Junior website. 
The two websites and are the new homes for the Woodlands Resources.

Mandy left Woodlands in 2003 to work in Kent schools as an ICT Consultant.
She now teaches computers at The Granville School and St. John's Primary School in Sevenoaks Kent.

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